Do It Right or Don’t Do It At All

BY AE2 THOMAS BESA

Aviation Electronics Technician 1st Class Jeffrey Caleb, right, and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Adam Chenevert conduct an ALE-47 airborne countermeasure dispensing system inspection during routine pre-flight checks on an F/A-18F Super Hornet. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kilho Park)

Someone once told me, “Doing it wrong is as good as not doing it at all.” Right off the bat that message is what you should get out of this story, as it is a very important lesson we must all learn from, regardless of rating or rank.¬¬ On a rainy Tuesday morning, my fellow ordnancemen and I were on the flight line preparing the aircraft for daily flight operations. I was the collateral duty inspector (CDI) in charge of overseeing the installation and torqueing of 16 ALE-47 magazine dispenser buckets on four F/A-18E Super Hornets. I had all the required tools, but I did not have the actual check-list in my hands.

Over time, I got so relaxed with the repetitiveness of this specific job that I missed a very important step. I should have read the checklist step-by-step, without rushing. Even though I thought I had verified the torque on all the buckets in an x-pattern, in accordance with A1-F18EA-LWS-000, I obviously missed something. The aircraft returned from its flight and during the turnaround of the aircraft another ordnanceman found one of the four ALE-47 magazine dispenser buckets missing from the aircraft. The bucket had fallen off in flight! The aircraft had flown over residential areas where kids were at school and where people were in their homes. It could have been catastrophic if it had hit and destroyed someone’s property or, even worse, if it had hit someone as this surely would have resulted in a fatality. Luckily, this did not result in any property damage or personal injury; however, this incident was entirely avoidable had I done by-the-book maintenance. All of this was a result of my negligence to do the job by the book.

Proper procedures and instructions are established by experts for all of us to follow. Mishaps have happened in the past because maintainers have not followed simple instructions, and it has resulted in the damage of personal property and/or injury; and even worse, death. They are easy to read and simple to use, so there should be no reason to not follow the specific steps as written in the publications and check-lists.

CDIs are the people in the work center that the command trusts to oversee that the job gets done properly, but, more importantly, we are the people that the junior Sailors look up to. They seek guidance and knowledge from us, and are relying on us to do it right ourselves and to train them if they are not doing the job correctly. They are our replacements and the future of our Navy. What kind of future are we providing if we don’t teach them to do the right things now? Equally as important, how can we as CDIs and supervisors keep our Sailors safe and the jets flying safely if we are not following the book at all times, on and off the flightline? The term “by-the-book maintenance” is something we’ve all heard hundreds of times that can sometimes go in one ear and out the other. Please use this incident as a reminder of what can happen if we choose to not take that to heart by letting that phrase fully sink in.